Women, Marriage, Religion And The Women Protection Bill
The passing of the Protection of Women against Violence Bill in Punjab is a remarkable development. Although, the society is clearly divided on it and roughly the balance is tilted towards those who are against it. It is being considered as a “challenge” to the basic principles governing the institution of marriage in this part of the world. Apparently, to a substantial extent, the discourse is that any woman daring to take action against her husband would be disloyal, selfish, absolutely vulgar, and hateful towards her partner.
We have in the recent past heard some outstanding rebuttals in the defence of men. Rational inquiry touched peaks when somebody tried to rationalize a query: once a woman had filed a complaint, how would her husband ever accept her afterwards? And therefore, she should not complain. That is uncomfortable for the husband.
The deification of partners by women, validated and endorsed by majority faction of female population, reinforced by socio-cultural norms and the history of the region, further solidified by absurd narratives by clerics in the name of religion, is manifestly the prime reason why many young girls today and in the past have had faced brutal persecution. After this Bill, at least in theory, women have a choice: either to continue with brutality or take a stance. Arguments apart, this law provides another option which was previously missing and carries an immense significance.
It will not be terribly wrong if one says that majority of Pakistani women are living their lives in modern day slavery. Marriage is bonded labor legitimized, legalized and fancied by rhetoric and stereotypes. The dilemma is that it is the the victim who endorses the crime. The cognitive maps of females are amended, trained, designed and tailored since their births to accept this victimization. Soon it becomes an ideology for them. Lack of religious and academic knowledge then allows these girls to spend their lives on the basis of stereotypes wrapped in the ‘cover’ of religion, the questioning of which is a cardinal sin. Although religion itself doesn’t bar us from questioning and inquiring, religion for many women then is the inherited form of religion as opposed to one the understanding of which may have been achieved through any rational inquiry. I am in no way suggesting that only women practice such kind of inherited religion. Indeed, the males also practice not a different version of it. But the tendency of male victimization in a predominantly patriarchal society is naturally less and so their religious beliefs do not immensely impact the way their lives are shaped as far as society is concerned.
Rationality, then, is a crime. Questioning is vulgarity. And, how dare she defend the Women Protection Bill. Well, if she does, it is the time for the hubby to be alert. “Has she started thinking?” Hubby looks with his suspicious little eyes at her face. And, while raising his voice, latently issues decrees to remain subjected. Conscience is crime in the land of Big Brother. With honor and celebrations, you bring home a slave. You dictate her life, her existence, her every idea. You force her to surrender her individual conscience.
Well, it will be hard for me to summarize the entire debate in an article. However, apart from all these social intricacies and familial nitty-gritties, the jest of the initiative will remain unattained until the effective implementation of the clauses is carried out.
In the past we have seen effective, significant bills being passed by the ‘lawmakers’ and not followed by dedicated effort for proper implementation and thus eventually ending up in no one’s memory.
Another element that will make the implementation of this law rather crucial and would require dedication is that this Bill does not challenge merely another law. It questions the fundamental mindset of majority of the people. This Bill therefore has very strong ideological strings attached to itself.
In order to implement it, the government bears the utmost responsibility to initiate an honest, steadfast and committed campaign to enlighten the masses about what this Bill actually means. They need to campaign for the fact that it is not any anti-men law or a law that will vulgarize women or will make them disloyal, dishonest and cruel. Rather, it is a law that empowers such women who face persecution and domestic violence and, prior to this law, did not have the legal protection against it. Most importantly, and surprisingly so, the government needs to reiterate that men who do not practice domestic violence or do not persecute their partners would not be driven out of their houses with handcuffs. Nothing to worry about, boys!
But, failure on the account of government to initiate any comprehensive effort to ascertain the implementation of this Bill signifies its vacuous commitment to the cause. Not hitting hard when the iron is red would not only drive this matter under the carpet but will also strengthen the resolve of those cruel men who defy surrendering to rationality and humanism of any sort.
One article in the Tribune reported that “public sector reforms called for 33% representation of women in boards of public sector companies and committees among others…even in 2016, women lack representation of 33%, falling as low as 7% in many public sector committees”.
Another article quoted Bassra Bibi, who was the first complainant under the new law, as saying, “I have heard about the Women Protection Bill but I don’t think the Bill will be implemented in the province”. This shows the lack of trust among citizens towards the institutions of state and their level of disappointment from the implementation policy of the government.
It is certainly a fact that this Bill in the long run will impact the conscience of people. It is a first step forward. But the major responsibility now lies on the shoulders of the Punjab Government which may be leading other provinces in policy making, but does not hold any great record with policy implementation.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.